As an active form of media rather than a passive one, video games employ difficulty modes as a way to open their stories up to as many players as possible.
The same story can be explored by players of differing skill levels, with variables like number of enemies or health values altered to increase accessibility.
One unfortunate issue that arises from this structure of easy, medium and hard difficulty is elitist judgement based on who experienced the “truer” version of the game. The harder the mode you played, the more of a “true gamer” you are perceived to be.
Here is what I’m wondering: is there perhaps a way to rephrase these difficulty modes to better explain the value each provides to a different type of gamer?
In some basic ways, certain games have already made attempts to move the focus to the unique appeal of each gameplay system. The Last Of Us kept the names easy through hard for modes, but added descriptors explaining that easy puts a focus on story, while hard leans more on offering a mechanical challenge.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution called its easiest difficulty “Tell me a Story” which was a positive move to focus on the positives of an easy mode, but it somewhat undid this by calling the toughest difficulty “Give me Deus Ex”. This implied that the hardest mode was the real experience, and that other modes were lesser.
On the more extreme end of the scale, you could rename easy mode to something like “Hero Fantasy” mode. Switching the focus away from the fact that the mode is easy to instead highlight the appealing way extra ammo and health allows players to feel like an unstoppable hero, shifting the idea of lowered challenge from a negative to a positive.
While there is the obvious drawback of obscuring at a glance which mode is easiest, by switching up the naming conventions of difficulty modes and pairing them with descriptors of the appeal of their individual gameplay styles, my hope is that some of the elitism around gaming difficulty would be reduced.
So, what do you think? Would you feel less embarrassed playing on “Hero Fantasy” compared to Easy? I’d love to hear what you think down in the comments.